Nature conservation benefits both the species protected but also local communities, Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis said on Monday during his visits to the beaches of Mavrallis and Lara.

In the morning, Kadis observed the progress of the restoration works undertaken in Mavrallis beach in Argaka over the past two years. Mavrallis beach is located adjacent to what used to be a docking station for the nearby Limni mines, operated from 1937 to 1979 by the Cyprus Sulphur and Copper Company.

A total of 17,000 cubic metres of mining waste were to be removed from Mavrallis beach in a project started in January this year, as the sea waters at the area had turned yellow from the many years of mining activity and dumping.

The restoration of the beach also involved the removal of acacias which are considered an invasive species.

The restoration work was aimed to be completed by March before the sea turtles that breed in the area began to lay their eggs.

Later the minister visited the Lara area, where the fisheries department presented the sea turtle protection and monitoring programme.

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Some sea turtle nests were opened in Lara and Argaka and baby turtles were released into the sea.

Kadis gave credit to local residents who embraced the ‘very successful’ sea turtle conservation programme, calling on others, mainly Ineia, to realise the long-term benefits and support the programme.

“This process can only be positive for the local community,” he added, as thousands of foreign and local visitors go to these areas, mainly to enjoy the nature, pristine landscape and biodiversity of these areas.

The minister did not meet anyone from Ineia community after the community leader last week slammed the minister over the new plan for the Akamas, which he said left the people of the village unable to make use of their land. Instead, the Ineia community council decided community leader Yiangos Tsivikos and residents would absent themselves from the minister’s visit in protest.

In response, Kadis said that the president had instructed them to explore ways to offset this expectation of Ineia residents for the development of their properties and the ministries of interior and agriculture are working in this direction.

Along with the local development plan, a framework of compensatory measures for the residents of the area will be announced, the minister added.

The plan, he said, will take into account all the peculiarities of the Akamas region and at the same time give the communities of the region the opportunity for development.

Earlier, the community council said they consider the minister’s visit to be a showcasing “fiesta”, which does not respond to their own challenge to the minister.

Tsivicos had recently invited the minister to visit Lara and hear out Ineia residents’ grievances, including the claim that many marked nests do not in fact contain turtle eggs. Their position that Lara beach is not a habitat for turtle nesting was criticised by the Green party who said environment protection should be a priority in any plan for the area.